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Words That Drive Me Crazy

Flickr Photo by Loozrboy Photostream

KMMS asked me to start blogging for them in March of 2012. One of the interesting things about writing is the various common usage of words and how, in some cases, they are incorrectly used in everyday language. I’m as guilty as anyone of using the wrong word to drive my point home. So here are a few of my favorites that sometimes cause me grief.

  • Accept, Except & Expect: Accept is a verb meaning to take in, “I accept the nomination.” Except is a preposition meaning other than. “In your case I’ll make an exception.” The verb Expect means to depend on or to wait for something. “I’m expecting my tax refund any day now.”
  • Climactic & Climatic: Climatic is an adjective to the noun climax. “The movie had a climactic ending.” Climatic is an adjective to the noun climate. “He has finished his climatic research.”
  • Deprecate & Depreciate: Deprecate is a verb meaning to express disapproval. “I didn’t appreciate his deprecating tone.” Depreciate is a verb meaning to reduce in a value. “The dollar is depreciating at an alarming rate.”
  • Elicit & Illicit: Elicit is a verb meaning to bring out or bring forth. “I would like to elicit your opinions.” Illicit is an adjective that means illegal or not permitted. “Anthony Weiner’s illicit behavior sets a bad example.”
  • Foreword, Forward & Farward: Foreword is a noun and means a preface or opening note. “He wrote the foreword to my new book.” Forward is an adjective and an adverb with meanings related to direction. “Forward Christian Soldiers.” Farward, or farword, are just common misspellings of both words.
  • Lessen & Lesson: Lessen is a verb meaning to reduce. “I’ll do some of the work to lessen your load.” Lesson is a noun meaning some form of instruction. “I hope you learned your lesson young man.”
  • Liable & Libel: The adjective liable has three syllables (Li-A-ble). In legal terms it means responsibility. “He is liable for the damages to my car.” The noun or verb libel is a two-syllable word (Li-bel) meaning false publication. “His is libel for his comments in the newspaper.”
  • Lightening & Lightning: Lightening is a noun referring to changing the weight of something or a change of color. “Lightening the red color will make it pink.” Lightning is what you don’t want to be struck by in a thunderstorm.
  • Personal & Personnel: Personal is an adjective referring to an individual or something private. “It’s not public; it’s personal.” Personnel is a noun that refers to the staff or employees of an organization or business. “She is the new Personnel Director.”
  • Principal & Principle: Principal is a noun that refers to a person or, in some cases, a monetary sum. “The school principal lost his principal in a risky investment.” Principle is a noun that refers to a rule or a basic truth. “It’s not the money; it’s the principle of the thing.” Spelling tip: The school principal is your “pal.” (Princi(pal).

Some Final Thoughts

Ask any writer what their biggest challenge is and they will mostly say, “Finding the right words to get my point across.” Words are our tools and our nemesis at the same time. One wrong word can change the entire direction of the intended thought.

To put your mind at ease I’m not a “Word of the Day” guy. I’m not looking for words to make me sound smarter than I am. However, I’m always in fear of using the wrong word in the wrong context and it seems that no amount of proofreading prevents that. But tomorrow is another day and another battle of vowels, adverbs, split infinitives and dangling participles. Got my armor on and I’m ready to fight.

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